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Pirates' Gerrit Cole keeps cool, wins 3rd straight start

| Saturday, June 24, 2017, 10:24 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — Gerrit Cole kept his emotions and the St. Louis Cardinals in tight check Saturday and paced the Pirates to a 7-3 victory.

Cole tossed six strong innings and won his third start in a row. He allowed one run on five hits, walked two and struck out five.

"He stayed focused on getting outs, following his game plan," manager Clint Hurdle said. "This was a game when he got nicked early, found a way to settle in, then got into pitch mode."

After three Pirates were hit by pitches in six innings, Cole delivered a message. When the Cardinals tried to goad Cole into a confrontation, he simply ignored it.

Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison were drilled with the bases loaded, which boosted the Pirates' lead to six runs in the sixth. Harrison leads the majors with 16 HBPs.

"There's only been a few that haven't hurt," Harrison said. "But, as I like to say, they probably would've killed a common man."

In the bottom of the inning, Cole got two outs, then threw behind Jose Martinez with a 98 mph fastball. Martinez stepped out of the box and gave Cole a long, hard stare, but Cole merely waited him out.

"You've got to pitch them inside," Cole said, without elaborating.

Wanting to send his own message, Martinez missed with a huge cut. He then dinked a broken-bat single into left field.

Martinez jogged to first base and barked at Cole as two umpires stepped in between the two players. Cole turned his head and went back to work.

"Every time (Cole) goes out there, we know he's got our backs," Harrison said.

It's a new approach by Cole, who throughout his career often has been fiery and emotional — at times to a fault. Now, he seems a bit more quiet, a little more focused ...

"A little more determined," shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "I think he went into a rough patch for a while, and I think he was ready to turn it around himself. It was time for him to put his foot down, and he did. His last three starts, he's been really good."

Cole and Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn had a rocky first inning. Cole righted himself quickly, but Lynn went into a tailspin.

"Spray command at times kind of got me into a couple of binds," Cole said. "Fortunately, we were able to make pitches when we had to. (Catcher Chris Stewart) was great. He got me back on track and helped me out with my delivery a little bit."

Not even halfway into the season, Cole and Lynn already have set career highs for home runs allowed.

Cole was tagged once, which raised his total to 17 homers allowed. Lynn has given up 18, including blasts by Jordy Mercer and Harrison.

The Pirates have homered in a season-best nine consecutive games. It's their longest streak since they went deep in 12 games in a row Aug. 5-18, 2015.

Lynn went into the game with a string of 12 scoreless innings pitched against the Pirates dating to last season. That streak was snapped in the first inning.

Harrison dropped a double into left field. With two outs, David Freese was hit by a pitch, and Josh Bell rolled an RBI single into right field.

Cole served up a home run to the first batter he faced. Matt Carpenter tied the score 1-1 in the first inning when he drove a full-count fastball over the right-field wall.

The Cardinals got just four more hits off Cole (6-6) over the next five innings.

"There was not a lot of hard contact after the home run," Hurdle said. "He really got into a nice rhythm."

In the fourth, Andrew McCutchen slapped an excuse-me single to right and giggled about it as he stood on the bag. Mercer followed with a line-drive homer into the left-field seats.

"(Lynn) wanted to come in, but he left it up," Mercer said. "I didn't think it was going to go out. I thought it had too much topspin and would go off the wall. I guess it doesn't matter how far you hit it as long as it goes over."

Harrison launched a solo shot in the fifth.

The Pirates scored three runs with just one hit in the sixth. Freese walked, went to third on McCutchen's single and scored on Mercer's grounder to make it 5-1.

With two outs, Stewart was intentionally walked. When Cole worked a full-count walk, which loaded the bases, Lynn was replaced by John Brebbia.

Frazier was hit on the foot by an 0-2 pitch. Three pitches later, Harrison was plunked in the back.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

Getty Images
Pirates starter Gerrit Cole pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, June 24, 2017.
Jordy Mercer is congratulated by teammate Andrew McCutchen after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning against the Cardinals on Saturday, June 24, 2017.
Josh Bell watches his RBI single in the first inning against the Cardinals on Saturday, June 24, 2017.
Getty Images
Pirates first baseman Josh Bell reaches for a throw to record an out in the first inning against the Cardinals on Saturday, June 24, 2017.
The Pirates' Josh Harrison celebrates as he arrives at home after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, June 24, 2017.
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